The oracle landscape of Orchha, India: reclaiming the lost heritage

Amita Sinha, Ana Valderrama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The historic landscape of Orchha in Central India, once the capital of the Bundela Rajputs from 1531 to 1783 CE, was read as an oracle promising well-being and affording protection. Site readings and mappings of the landscape show that the built environment was visualized as a concrete embodiment of archetypal imagery of cosmic mountain and pillar, mandala and yantra, and sites of the epic Ramayana. Design strategies for envisioning, or reading this auspicious landscape, consisted of deliberate location and orientation of temples and palaces, interior surfaces as spaces of representation of narrative imagery, and spatial transposition. Today this visual structure is illegible due to abandonment, encroachment, and new development as a result of increasing number of pilgrims and tourists. Grounded speculation from site studies of the cultural landscape is proposed as the frame for reclaiming the lost heritage. Preserving view sheds and planning heritage trails will amplify the hidden visual structure of Orchha and suggest the reconciliation of myth and history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-325
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Cultural Geography
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • archetypes
  • cultural landscape
  • heritage
  • mythology
  • visualization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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